Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am Falling in Love…

with my new baby boy that is!  Austin Reid was born Monday, October 25th at 12:27 p.m. He weighed 8 lb 11 oz and was 21 inches long. Here he is just a few seconds old.

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I went into labor at 5:30 a.m and headed to the hospital shortly after. After Colin’s “fast as lightning” birth, I knew I wouldn’t have much time.  After 1 1/2 hours, I was elated to get the epidural this time. Can I just say God bless the person who invented that? Once again my labor was intense but quick.  When I was 10 cm I pushed for a little over an hour. When all is said and done, this labor and delivery was much less traumatic than the other two. I was so afraid to go through it all again, but I am so blessed that everything went well and this little guy was born healthy.

Here he is with his big brothers.

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I’m not brave enough to share any pictures of me. Again, I went into labor during the night so it’s not a pretty sight! But here is daddy holding his new son for the first time.

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This was taken at 5 days old. They change so quickly!

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As I sit here and write this, my heart is filled with so much love for this guy. The miracle of new life amazes me. For 9 months I felt him inside of me, imagined what he would look like and dreamed of who he will be.  When I look at him, and I do that often, I am filled with so much emotion. The precious innocence of a newborn child represents everything right in the world. From his kissable cheeks to his tiny toes, he is God’s perfect creation. The one I am entrusted to love and raise on this earth in hopes of being reunited in the next. I hope I can be the kind of mother to him that he deserves. Mostly, I am just so thankful for this healthy, precious baby that I have the privilege of loving. I am so blessed.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TOS Review: PGKey SafeKey

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As part of my participation in this year’s TOS Crew, I have been given the opportunity to review PGSafeKey, an award-winning device that plugs into your computer that immediately creates a safer and more “kid friendly” online environment.

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After teaching technology for 4 years at an elementary school, I was very curious to see how this product would protect our kids. I know when the time comes, I will be very apprehensive about my children being unsupervised on the Internet in this day and age.  There is just so much scary stuff out there, and yet the Internet is the greatest technological innovation of our time! PG SafeKey offers “Protection for Your Children. Peace of Mind for You!”

What is it?

PG SafeKey is a patent-pending device that plugs into your child’s USB port.  It was designed and endorsed by a team of professionals to give parents the tools they need to keep kids safe online.

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What it Offers:
(taken from their website)

featuresTitle 

Access Control
Control computer use by inserting or unplugging PG Key.

Time Allowance
Decide the amount of time the computer can be used daily.

Content Filtering
Eliminate unwanted results from innocent searches.

Site Blocking
Block sites you decide are inappropriate.

Activity Tracking
Review all activity on the PC with a DVD-like interface.

Activity Notifications
Be informed via text message or e-mail of any flagged activity.

Chat and E-mail Logging
See both sides of chat and e-mail conversations.

Computer Configuration
Properly configure all users of the protected PC.

User Name and Password Logging
Keep track of user names and passwords.

Inappropriate Activity Evidence
Use video recording to show obvious or suspected inappropriate activity.

The Positives:

First off,  I thought it was very easy to install. It literally took me just a few short minutes and I think just about anyone could do it. I went through the initial set up and entered the websites and words that I wanted it to “flag”. Since I don’t have any little people using the Internet yet, I just typed in some generic terms that would be inappropriate.  The program claimed that it would email me if anyone tried to search for those things. It worked! I was happy to see several emails in my inbox immediately notifying me that someone had typed in those words and/or tried to get on those websites. The program also gives you the opportunity to be notified by phone which would be a huge benefit I think.

The other feature that I think is wonderful is the activity tracking.  You can literally sit back and watch every website that someone went to, in a DVD like format. This would be HUGE in my opinion if you had an older child using the computer. No need to hover over their shoulder, just review the sites they went to. Genius!

Although I didn’t try the email and chat part, the program claims that you can “see both sides”. Wouldn’t you love to know what your children are emailing? Of course you can turn any feature on or off as you desire or as your child becomes more independent. I also loved the timer feature. Working parents might especially appreciate being able to monitor their children’s time on the computer.

The Negatives:

There really aren’t many to speak of. The only thing that concerned me was that the program claims to block inappropriate content. I did a search of what I consider “inappropriate content” and several hits came up that I would never want my child to see. So I’m not sure if it was me, or if there is a glitch somewhere.

Also, I sort of wish there was some kind of way to tailor the program depending on your kids’ ages. What I consider inappropriate for a kindergartener is different than what I consider inappropriate for a highschooler. It seems that everyone is treated equally for that specific feature. You can however, block each users websites, but the general filtering seems to be the same for everyone.

Overall:

I think this program is VERY worth it. In fact, for $49.99, I would definitely recommend it. It seems like a small price to pay to keep your kids safe online.  If my kids were older I would definitely be using it on a daily basis. I think so many of the features are wonderful. Most of all, I think this program protects kids from a world that they might not yet be ready to dive into. Highly recommended!

Cost:
The PGKey retails for $49.99 and can be found here or on Amazon.com

Click here to see what others are saying about PGKey!

Disclaimer: I was given this product free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Friday, October 22, 2010

TOS Review: Brill Kids Little Reader

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As part of my participation on this year’s TOS Crew, I have been given the opportunity to review the Little Learners Reading System by BrillKids.

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What is it?

Little Reader is a software system designed to teach your baby or young child to read, that “delivers lessons in ways never before possible, making reading engaging for your child and easy for YOU”.  Here is an example of the screen for a typical lesson.

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According to their website, Little Reader is different because…

1)The lessons are never the same
There is immense variety in the lessons.  The lessons are presented with different fonts, styles, pictures, audio and video so that your child is never bored.

2) It has a comprehensive curriculum
Little Reader uses 2 methods: the flash (right brain) method and the multisensory method. It claims to provide visual, auditory and kinesthetic stimulation.  The key to success however, is parental interaction.  Parents are encouraged to engage with their child throughout the lesson.

3)It offers personalization
Parents have the opportunity to customize almost every lesson. For example, you can download a picture of Uncle Jon when the word “Uncle” is presented.

4)It is easy to use
That is always good news for busy moms!

Apparently, there are two other components to the program that I didn’t get to review: the Presentation Binder and Little Reader Storybooks.  You can find videos with more information about these components on YouTube. 

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My Impression:

Since my youngest is almost 2 1/2, I didn’t really have an authentic “baby” to try this out on.  However, my son is a little delayed in his speech and I saw a golden opportunity with this program to expose him to language in general.

Every day, for a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day, we did a lesson. The lessons consist of 3 parts: A, B and C.  He seemed to really like the 1 on 1 time with mommy doing the computer. Even my 3 year old wanted to do it! He smiled when the pictures and words flashed across the screen and seemed to enjoy the program. Did it work? Hmmm. Well, it didn’t teach him to read unfortunately. But it DID encourage him to “use his words” to communicate. I would often ask him to say the words (which I’d never heard him say before) and much to my surprise, he could say it. That part was exciting.

I found the program to be a little sparse in content-at least without the other 2 components.  As far as teaching a baby to read, I really can’t comment on if this program would work.  I find it a little hard to believe (esp. as a former educator) that babies can authentically learn to read this way. This program seems to rely on memorization and since I’m a big believer in phonics, I have doubts that they would retain what they’ve memorized. Of course, that’s just my opinion and their website claims otherwise.

Click here to see what others are saying about Little Reader!

How Much Does it Cost?
Little Reader starts at $149 and goes up from there depending on which package you choose. Click here for  ordering info. Pictured below is the deluxe kit for $360.

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Disclaimer: I was given this software free in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Crew.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

TOS Review: Digital Frog International

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As part of my participation on this year’s TOS Crew, I was given the opportunity to review this award-winning educational software that brings science to life.

About the Company:

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Are you looking for a way to bring science to life? To get your middle schooler or high schooler excited about the natural world? Well, look no further! Digital Frog International has been around for almost 20 years, and has built a great reputation for bringing the world of natural science back into classrooms and homes.

From their website: Our focus is on biology and ecology.  Our goal is to make a difference to the way that people view the natural world. Our computer-based learning tools encourage a lifelong interest in, and respect for, the world around us.  We believe people cannot care about a world they do not understand. To this end, our products present accurate, detailed information in an interesting and engaging way.

Digital Frog offers a variety of products including a full, interactive virtual frog dissection and anatomy program, to teaching about the world’s most fascinating ecosystems. I was given the following field trips to review:

-The Digital Field Trip to the Desert
-The Digital Field Trip to the Wetlands
-The Digital Field Trip to the Rainforest

My Impression of the Software:

Let me first start out by saying that Science is not my area of expertise.  Having said that, I was looking forward to reviewing this because I wanted to see if it would be able to truly engage this unscientific reading teacher.

The website claims their product can be used for anyone from 3-90, but I’m not sure about that.  From my experience teaching 6th grade reading, I’m not sure that 6th grade or below would be able to digest this information.  I think there is a lot of information and sometimes the way it was displayed on the screen was a little too much even for me.  I wish the resolution was a bit bigger and the text presented in a clearer way. I could just see kids (esp. struggling readers) getting really frustrated.

Having said that, there is a wealth of information here that could be of great use to an older audience, as a supplement to a core curriculum.  I think middle schoolers and high schoolers could find the information very useful.

Price: The DVD’s range in price from $40-$125 depending on what you buy, and can be purchased here.

Click here to see what other TOS Crew Members think!

Disclaimer: I was given these items free of charge in exchange for my honest review as part of the TOS Crew.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Apple and Halloween Activities

October is finally here! My, we’ve been waiting for it for a long time. For one thing, the boys are so excited for Halloween. Of course, our new little arrival will be coming in a few short weeks as well, which makes it even more exciting.

Here are a few of the activities that I pulled out for this month so far. Garrett has been enjoying them so much; I’m so glad I put in the time and effort to make these last year.

Apple Patterns
I just “read” the pattern with him and had him tell me which color apple came next. He’s been doing very well with the ABA pattern. Sorry, I can’t remember where I got this! (I am going to try to be better in the future telling you where I find this stuff…I made this long before I thought I’d ever have a blog…)

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Alligator Puzzle (in correlation with our current letter, Aa)
I scored a bunch of these 9 and 12 piece puzzles at a garage sale a few weeks back  for a quarter. They are the perfect level of difficulty for him.

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Apple Size Sorting 
He put these in order from smallest to biggest. This continues to be a challenge for him. Download these here.

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Big A and little a Sort
Match the uppercase A’s and lowercase a’s to the apple tree.

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Ghost Numbers
I found these on clearance at Michael’s last year and thought I’d find some kind of use for them. I wrote 1-20 on them and first laid them out on the floor. I called out a number (like a ghost of course) and he had to jump to that number. Next, I had him  line up the ghosts in numerical order.

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Finally, I had him “feed” the ghosts with unifix cubes according to the number on their belly. Later, I found these really cool flies at the Dollar Tree that we used, but didn’t get a picture of that. He thought the flies were much cooler :-)

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Halloween Clothespin Game 
I found this download from one of the Yahoo Groups I belong to. You just count the objects on the card, find the number and put the clothespin on it. Daddy had the pleasure of helping on this one.

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Ghost Memory
I think this came from Childcareland.com. Garrett loved this game! It’s played just like traditional memory.

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Applejack Necklaces
I gave them a piece of string from our lacing cards, a bowl with Applejacks in it and told them to string them. No kidding, it was quiet for about 10 whole minutes while they diligently worked. They wore them when they were done, but then of course had fun eating them off of their necklace. I might consider doing patterns with this sometime.  Great fine motor!

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I’m sure I’ll be adding to this page as the month goes on. Until then….

Fall Leaf Mobile

One of my favorite websites is childcareland.com and they have a daily art project on their website.  They are usually just simple, quick little crafts.   This is one that I found and I thought they turned out really cute. The only thing is, I’m not sure where to find the template once the day has passed…so I can’t help you there. But I’m sure you could find a leaf template online somewhere that would work.

First, we painted the leaves red, orange and yellow which I printed out on cardstock.

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Then I cut them out, punched holes in them and used yarn to string them into mobiles. We hung them from our front window for a nice Fall decoration.

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